When it comes to estate planning, many people focus solely on their assets – houses, cars, bank accounts. However, a truly comprehensive estate plan also addresses your health care wishes.
With this in mind, including health care directives like a living will and a durable power of attorney for health care is not just smart but essential.
Living Will and a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care
Before diving in, let’s clarify the two main types of health care directives. A living will outlines your desires concerning life-support treatments. A durable power of attorney for health care, sometimes called a health care proxy, allows you to appoint an agent to make medical decisions on your behalf that don’t relate to life support.
The Living Will
Imagine being in a coma, unable to speak for yourself. A living will provides medical professionals and your family with instructions about the use of life support. If you ever become unable to make your own decisions, this document will make your wishes clear.
Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care
This directive comes into play when you can’t make medical decisions for yourself, but your situation is not necessarily life-threatening. Your agent will handle decisions ranging from types of treatments to consider to selecting health care providers.
The Necessity of Both
Having both a living will and a durable power of attorney for health care closes any loopholes in your health care coverage. It ensures you’ll have someone making decisions for you, whether you’re undergoing a less serious surgery or facing end-of-life care.
One often-overlooked component in the health care directive landscape is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) release form. This document is essential for smooth decision-making, especially when you’ve appointed an agent through a durable power of attorney for health care.
Why a HIPAA Release is Necessary
HIPAA laws protect your privacy by restricting who can access your medical records. While these laws serve a vital purpose, they can also become a hurdle if someone needs to make informed decisions on your behalf. Even if you appoint an agent to make medical decisions for you, they may not legally access your medical information without a HIPAA release form.
How It Complements the Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care
A durable power of attorney for health care gives your chosen agent the authority to make medical decisions for you. However, making an informed decision requires having all the facts, which includes access to your medical history, diagnoses, and treatment options.
A HIPAA release fills this gap, enabling your agent to make truly informed decisions by having the legal right to obtain your medical records.
Avoid Family Conflict
When it comes to health care decisions, emotions run high. Without clear directives, your family might find themselves arguing over what you would have wanted. A living will and a durable power of attorney for health care can prevent such painful disputes by making your wishes explicit.
Health care directives are indispensable tools in your estate planning arsenal. They provide a safety net, ensuring that your wishes will be respected even when you can’t speak for yourself.
Take Action Today!
If you are currently going through life without a plan that includes advance directives for health care, you are doing yourself, and your family, a disservice. This is one of the core responsibilities of adulthood, and you should take care of it sooner rather than later if you’re unprepared.
When you work with our firm, we will gain an understanding of your situation and answer any questions that you have. Recommendations will be made based on the circumstances, and at the conclusion of the process, you will emerge with a tailor-made plan that ideally suits your needs.
You can call us at 860-548-1000 to schedule a consultation at our Westport or Glastonbury, CT estate planning offices, and you can alternately use our contact form to send us a message.
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